Cyprien Katsaris is one of those rare pianists whose technique, interpretive acumen, and intuitive sense combine to astonish his listeners. Typically, he divulges a uniquely eccentric manner at the keyboard: he smiles, gestures oddly with a free hand, frequently looks away from the piano during the thorniest passages, and often rises as he's striking the last chord. Katsaris possesses a broad repertory, taking in works by J.S. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Liszt, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Prokofiev, Messiaen, and countless others. He is also a composer of some note, too, having written original works for piano, and transcriptions of well-known orchestral works for piano and cadenzas for various Mozart piano concertos. Katsaris has made numerous recordings over the years for many labels, including BMG/RCA, DG, Decca, EMI, Sony Classical, Telefunken, and Warner.
Cyprien Katsaris was born in Marseilles, France, on May 5, 1951. Raised in Cameroon, Africa, he began playing the piano at four. His advanced piano studies were at the Paris Conservatory under Monique de la Bruchollerie and Aline van Barentzen. He also studied chamber music performance there with René Leroy and Jean Hubeau. Katsaris captured first prize at the Conservatory in both piano (1969) and chamber music (1970).
Though he was a seasoned concert artist by the early '70s (his Paris debut was in 1966 at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées, playing the Liszt Hungarian Fantasy), his breakthrough came in 1974 when he won the Cziffra Competition in Versailles. Katsaris was thereafter in demand as soloist and recitalist at the most prestigious venues across the globe. In 1977 he was an appointed music director of the Festival International Echternach, serving until 2007. The following year he was chosen as soloist at the inaugural concerts of the Mexico City Philharmonic Orchestra, including for a series of concerts on tour. That same year he gave his U.S. debut with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra under Antal Dorati.
By the late '70s he was also making recordings, the first major one a 1980 Telefunken LP of solo Liszt compositions. Katsaris won three Grand Prix du Disque awards for Teldec recordings of Chopin (1985) and Liszt (1984 and 1989). In 1992 Katsaris appeared on Japanese TV in a 13-part series devoted to Chopin. In the new century Katsaris remains active: among his more memorable concerts was his appearance at the Beijing National Center for the Performing Arts in conjunction with the 2008 Olympics.